Boosting pub menu innovation and profitability is a key theme at next month’s Casual Dining trade show, which returns to the Business Design Centre in London, on 22-23 February.
Big names from Marston’s, Young’s, Geronimo Inns, Hippo Inns, Fuller’s, and Living Ventures are the latest and final additions to this year’s expert free Keynote line-up; which already includes Bob Ivell, non-exec chairman of Mitchells & Butlers. They’ll be appearing at the event, alongside over 200 exhibitors (across three floors) showcasing a host of new products, equipment and services for the on-trade.
From snacks, sharing platters and sides, to all day dining – food continues to be a crucial revenue stream for thousands of UK pub and bar operators. The ALMR’s latest annual Benchmarking Report shows that food sales now account for around a third of pubs’ turnover. Those that are already investing in providing high quality, good value food are driving footfall and gaining customers – with food-led pubs holding a 24.7% share of the UK’s total eating out market (which is worth in excess of £87bn, according to MCA).
Such numbers make it a hugely competitive marketplace. Being quick to adapt to emerging food trends and keeping up-to-date with new product developments is key. And thousands of pub, bar and restaurant buyers (over 4,400 attended in 2016) come to Casual Dining annually to do just that.
Among the pre-registered visitors this year are key decision makers from JD Wetherspoon, Mitchells & Butlers, Revolution Bars Group, Oakman Inns, Whitbread, Yummy Pub Co, BrewDog Bars, Be At One, Living Ventures, Marston’s Inns and Taverns, Geronimo Inns, Punch Taverns, ETM Group, Bermondsey Pub Company, Charles Wells, Young’s, Daniel Thwaites, Greene King, Shepherd Neame, Whiting & Hammond, and Stonegate Pub Company. Plus, of course, hundreds of independents and smaller pub and bar chains from across the UK.
“I definitely recommend taking the time to visit Casual Dining,” says Paul Pavli, operations director at Punch Taverns. “It has everything you need to stay ahead of the market, including new products and a fantastic speaker line-up.”
Inspiring industry innovators
One operator who has certainly taken advantage of changing consumer tastes – increasing its like-for-like sales over the past three years – is Marston’s. , the pubco’s chief financial and corporate development officer, will be at the show on opening day (at 2pm, 22 February) discussing how the 183-year-old brand, which operates 2,150 pubs (including the Pitcher & Piano brand), is attracting younger customers through positively embracing the emergence of casual dining.
Living Venture’s CEO and co-founder of the Bars to Fine Dining Group, Jeremy Roberts, will also be making his first speaking appearance at the show (at 3.30pm, 22 February). He’ll be talking about the journey from the early days with the late Tim Bacon and how the unique Living Ventures business model has evolved into a successful incubator of high street concepts and brand development.
“Casual dining – whether it’s in pubs, bars or restaurants, is where the majority of the sector, by definition, operates. So this is a great opportunity to get together to discuss the issues of the day with friends and colleagues,” says Roberts.
The renowned husband and wife team behind Hippo Inns, Rupert and Jo Clevely are also looking forward to sharing their insights on the sector at Casual Dining. After selling Geronimo Inns to Young’s in 2010, Rupert and Jo started Hippo Inns, in partnership with Enterprise Inns. Their Keynote on the show’s second day (at 12.30pm, 23 February) will focus on meeting customers’ increased expectations through good food, service and innovative interior design.
“Jo and I are very much looking forward to Casual Dining 2017. It’s an event I have long admired and being asked to speak is a real privilege,” says Rupert Clevely.
“This is the industry leading event where we all come together once a year. There are many opportunities, yet considerable threats facing this sector, and we look forward to sharing our views,” he says.
The future of pub food – exclusive panel session
Whilst in the past customers may have accepted that what they consume at home may not be available at their local pubs and bars, they’re becoming a lot more discerning and they do expect ‘high quality’ menu choices. Growing awareness of provenance, seasonality and naturality, for example, combined with special diet requirements – are far from passing food fads. They have been shaping consumer demand for years. Pub operators that don’t provide these options as standard, could potentially be missing out.
“Our guests are more knowledgeable on food than they ever have been – provenance, seasonality, artisanal and freshness are among some of the foodie buzzwords that we associate with our guests. Our menus reflect these buzzwords and provide dishes that are flexible to what time of day it is, ensuring that our guests use our pubs more casually,” says Chris Knights, group executive chef at Young’s Pubs and Geronimo Inns.
Knights will be appearing, alongside Paul Dickinson, head of food at Fuller, Smith & Turner, in the show’s ‘Future of pub food’ panel session (at 2.45pm, 23 February). Chaired by Mike Berry, head of content at Fleet Street Communications (and a former managing editor of the Morning Advertiser), the expert panellists will examine recent successes, share trends shaping their pub menus in 2017, and look beyond to predict where food in pubs will be years from now.
“As well as many other trends that influence our menus, and pubs in general, a trend that I feel will have great traction for 2017 will be authenticity,” says Knights. “A pub serving proper pub grub, it’s homely, nostalgic and tweaked for a more foodie generation.”
“Pub menus have improved dramatically over the past five years, thanks to increased quality and provenance of ingredients,” agrees Dickinson.
“For the chefs at Fuller’s, it’s the availability of seasonal produce that set the trends, and the craftsmanship of the chefs that create the theatre around the dishes. With this, we aim to exceed customer expectations,” he says.
Full Keynote line-up confirmed
Casual Dining 2017 will feature 18 free business seminars – including exclusive Keynotes, interviews, and market updates – across two days.
Previously announced sessions include:
- Bob Ivell, non-exec chairman, Mitchells & Butlers, in conversation with Paul Charity, MD of Propel
- Kate Nicholls, chief executive, ALMR: Brexit & four other bumps to prepare for
- Graeme Loudon, commercial director, CGA Strategy: Making a splash – the growing importance of drinks
- Peter Backman, MD, Horizons: Delivery – the big disruptor
- Simon Stenning, executive director, MCA: Casual dining market overview
- David Pellow, Area VP – Europe, Hard Rock International: Hard Rock Cafe – our place in the modern UK market
- Karen Forrester, CEO, TGI Friday’s UK: Crossing the line for growth
- Neil Rankin, owner of Temper, in conversation with Peter Martin, VP of CGA Peach.
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For full details and timings click here
Casual Dining will return to the Business Design Centre, in Islington, London, on 22-23 February 2017. For more information and to register for a free trade ticket click here, and use priority code CD30.